Akin, Abortion, and Prohibition

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 21 2012 11:41 AM

Akin, Abortion, and Prohibition

Not to make this blog All Akin All the Time, but I've started to get some interesting reader analyses of the candidate's quote. Frank DiStefano argues that the "no state would ban everything Akin wants banned, anyway" argument is the same one that was used to pass the Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment.*

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Very few of the people who voted for the prohibition amendment ever thought it would be used to ban beer and wine.  They wouldn't have supported it had they known it would be. Almost everybody thought no Congress would ever impose a ban beyond hard liquor.  It seemed outlandish to think it could ever happen. Yet once the amendment was in place, the activists easily took control of the legislative process in Congress and got the total ban they wanted.

That's exactly what would happen this time, I'm sure. Activists who help elect members and participate daily in the messy work of Congress control the details of what gets into legislation.
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In Last Call, Daniel Okrent's extraordinarily good history of Prohibition, this is all recounted in detail. He recalls what happened at the 1920 Democratic National Convention, when the modified "wets" tried to change the policy. "President Wilson asked his supporters to introduce a plank modifying the Volstead Act to allow the sale of beer and light wines," writes Okrent, "but [Senator Carter] Glass refused even to allow a debate on its merits."

Now, you can't directly compare the movement behind Prohibiton to the movement to limit abortion rights. The latter tribe sees a constitutional amendment as a nice dream; it's focusing on state bans and on getting a Supreme Court majority that will overturn Roe.

I think this is why libertarians are getting so passionate about the need to remove Akin. FreedomWorks, Dick Armey's group, backed businessman John Brunner over Akin in the GOP primary. Today, it sends out a statement from its president, Matt Kibbe, asking for Akin to literally get out of politics entirely.

He has permanently damaged his credibility as a candidate, and in his wake brought undo hurt to women and victims of sexual abuse across the country. Congressman Akin does not speak for the limited-government movement, and should remove himself from the political arena as swiftly as possible. We are asking our members in Missouri and around the country to encourage Congressman Akin to bow out of the race as well.

But Akin doesn't see himself as part of the "limited-government movement," necessarily. He, like many conservatives, wants a ban on abortions.

*Fixed this -- I originally mis-matched the amendment that ended Prohibition and the amendment that started it.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.